WHEN: 2:30 PM CT
WHERE: crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, California
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Steven Adams (Out, Health and Safety Protocols), Desmond Bane (Questionable, quad), John Konchar/Xavier Tillman Sr. (Questionable, Health and Safety Protocols), Kyle Anderson (Doubtful, back), Ja Morant (Doubtful, thigh), Yves Pons (Doubtful, ankle)
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: Luke Kennard and Ivica Zubac (Out, Health and Safety Protocols), Kawhi Leonard (Out, knee), Paul George (Out, elbow), Isaiah Hartenstein (Out, ankle), Jason Preston (Out, foot)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke, Jaren Jackson Jr.,
L.A. CLIPPERS: Reggie Jackson, Eric Bledsoe, Terance Mann, Marcus Morris Sr., Serge Ibaka
The Memphis Grizzlies logged what many called a “professional win” on Thursday night as they took care of business against the (close to purposely) hapless Detroit Pistons. The game was only in question for a short amount of time, and because of the way Ja Morant and company handled themselves the minute count did not exceed about 27 for any starter. As the dog days of the season approach, games like that will matter more and more. In one individual game, the difference between 5 minutes played is not noticeable. But if you’re able to win games decisively multiple times and perhaps multiply that 5 minutes by 6 or 7 such wins? Now you’re saving an entire game’s worth of time on legs that, no matter how young, will wear down as the season trudges along.
This game is another example of such an opportunity. For even with Ja Morant doubtful for this contest (and therefore almost certainly out, barring a COVID issue for the Grizzlies - historically “doubtful” is almost always “out”) the Grizzlies are set up to be the superior team. L.A. is without their two superstars in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, and key rotation members Ivica Zubac and Luke Kennard are also sitting this one out. Memphis is simply deeper - especially considering the fact that Desmond Bane, John Konchar, and Xavier Tillman Sr. (questionable usually means “they’re playing” for Memphis) are back in the mix.
Of course the Grizzlies are weaker without Morant. And the team continues to miss the versatility of Kyle Anderson while now adding Steven Adams to the Health and Safety Protocol list as well. But Memphis has more in the tank than the Clippers...and this should be another “professional win”.
Here’s how to get it done.
Use size to your advantage
The starting five of the Clippers in this game has enough talent to give the Grizzlies issues to be sure, especially on the offensive end. But L.A. is lacking in terms of physical size, especially in the back court, against Memphis. Desmond Bane is only 6’4” but is built like a tank, and Dillon Brooks is roughly 6’7” and is more than capable of being physical with most perimeter players. While Tyus Jones is also diminutive, players like De’Anthony Melton (6’8” wingspan) can also make problems for the guards of the Clippers that are more “point” than “combo”.
The quickness and handle of Reggie Jackson and Eric Bledsoe is to be respected. But Memphis has bodies to throw at these guys, and the capability to maintain positioning while implementing physicality. That doesn’t mean the Grizzlies should play dirty as guards attack the lane. It does mean that because of the numerous missing pieces for L.A. wearing them down by a quick and physically style could be advantageous for the Grizzlies. Transition baskets and solid movement on defense will make for a tired Clippers squad.
Feature Brandon Clarke off the bench
Don’t look now, but Brandon Clarke is having a very similar season to what he did in his terrific rookie campaign. In fact, you can argue he is even better than he was then - in a smaller sample size, his offensive rating (134), PER (23.2), and win shares per 48 minutes (.226) are all better than they were in that first NBA season for Clarke, according to basketball-reference.com. He has regained that explosiveness that he missed so often last season, and while his three point shot has abandoned him (a putrid 14.3% from beyond the arc) he is as impactful as ever as a rim runner (almost 80% shooter at the rim) and defender (his 5.1% block rate is the best of his career). He is, simply, back to looking the part of a core Grizzlies piece moving forward.
With Ivica Zubac out, the Clippers front court is already struggling in terms of depth. While Clarke is not the largest big man in history, the L.A. bigs are not going to be able to hang with the explosiveness of BC. Regardless of who runs the point with Clarke, he needs to be given opportunity to test the range defensively of Clippers bigs. He has the ability, and because of his recent strong stretch of play he also has the confidence. Let him eat.
The betting line isn’t available as of this writing - probably because of the uncertainty surrounding the Memphis injury report. We can forgive Vegas for not knowing how the Grizzlies roll in that regard - but assuming Morant/Anderson/Pons are out, and Bane/Konchar/Tillman are in, Memphis should be favored by at least two scores. The Grizzlies have a better record on the road than the Clippers do at home, and the roster quality of Memphis should shine through in a game where despite being without their best player the Grizzlies should have the talent/depth upper hand.
Memphis 108, Los Angeles Clippers 101